The more Donald J. Trump talks about Russia, the harder it is to believe he's actually loyal to the United States. He's dedicated to his money and to his grotesquely inflated ego. He enjoys pomp and parades. The end.
Otherwise, Americans cannot count upon this president to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution any more than they could trust him alone with their wives or daughters. To Trump, patriotism is a one-way street running from his deluded voters to his grandiose sense of entitlement.
There it dead-ends.
It's all about him; it's not about you, or me or the United States of America.
What's more, deep down almost everybody knows it, apart from Trump's dwindling cohort of die-hard supporters.
Consider last weekend, when the guy Kevin Drum derisively calls "the greatest negotiator the world has ever seen" declared that regarding Russia's massively documented efforts to sabotage the 2016 U.S. elections, he disbelieves his own intelligence agencies and puts his faith in Vladimir Putin.
Trump even impugned the patriotism of former CIA director John Brennan, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper and fired FBI director James Comey.
"I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks," Trump said. "So you look at it, I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker. So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with them."
Never mind that these three men have a combined history of more than 90 years of public service at the highest levels, versus Donald J. Trump's glorious 10 months as president. To him, they're bunglers and prevaricators, while the trustworthy Russian dictator's denials should be taken at face value -- voluminous evidence notwithstanding.
How can anybody be surprised? a friend asks on Facebook. After all, Trump is a guy who believed (or pretended to believe) "for years that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and was aided in becoming President by a massive conspiracy involving his deceased parents, the director of Hawaii's bureau of vital statistics, and a copy editor for the Honolulu Advertiser in 1961."
It was quite funny to see people holding up "Welcome to Kenya" signs when the president recently touched down in Honolulu. But I digress, and pointlessly. Cultists cannot be persuaded by reason.
Within 24 hours, Trump was already walking the Russia nonsense halfway back. Meanwhile, Clapper -- a retired Air Force general and the recipient of two Bronze Stars -- issued a strong rebuttal: "The president was given clear and indisputable evidence that Russia interfered in the election. His own DNI and CIA director have confirmed the finding in the intelligence community assessment. The fact that he would take Putin at his word over the intelligence community is unconscionable."
The CIA said that (Trump-appointed) director Mike Pompeo "stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 Intelligence Community assessment ... with regard to Russian election meddling." That assessment concluded that Kremlin hackers and spies working for Vladimir Putin had done everything in their power to elect Donald J. Trump.
So the big dope started crawfishing. Putting aside his customary Mean Girls act, Trump explained that the Russian strongman -- a one-time KGB colonel whose political opponents often end up dead in the street -- had gotten his little feelings hurt. "You can only ask so many times," Trump alibied. "He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.
"I really believe that when (Putin) tells me that, he means it. I think he's very insulted, if you want to know the truth," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. At a press conference in Hanoi, he put further sideways spin on his remarks. He only meant to affirm Putin's sincere belief, the president said.
"As to whether I believe it or not," he said, "I'm with our (intelligence) agencies, especially as currently constituted." Whatever that means.
Trump went on to argue that making nice with the Russians is more important than their subversion of our democracy.
Just give this egotistical buffoon a big military parade and a couple of flattering toasts and he rolls over on his back like a lost puppy. Would you like to scratch my belly? As the Washington Post's invaluable conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin put it, Trump's "the type of target that counterintelligence operatives dream of -- an arrogant fool."
To believe that Putin has America's best interests at heart, said Sen. John McCain, "is not only naive but also places our national security at risk." Of course, a darker possibility also exists: that Trump isn't so much naive as frightened about whatever Putin has on him, and about the possibility Americans will find out.
Which the way things are going, appears quite likely.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org.